AK-47 is mis-firing

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

Andrei Kirilenko always seemed so innocent. He isn’t covered in tattoos and he spends half his time visiting sick children. Even the small forward’s hairdos imply innocence.

Kirilenko always seemed like a go-with-the-flow type of guy. His nickname, AK-47, seemed almost tongue-in-cheek.

Up until a few years ago, Kirilenko was the Jazz’s marquee player and yet he seemed not to notice.

“Who, me? I’m just one of the guys,” Kirilenko seemed to be saying.

Perhaps his unselfish style of play contributed to his off-the-court persona. Never the type of player who felt the need to fill a scoring quota, Kirilenko was content to rack up hustle plays.

Utahns loved the smiling, personable Russian. But a minor crack appeared in his altar-boy image when he announced that his wife allows him to have sex with another woman once a year.

But that didn’t seem to affect his reputation in Mormon country. People wrote the disclosure off as a cultural difference. Plus, NBA player or not, it was difficult to imagine the awkwardly tall, pasty Kirilenko as a ladies’ man.

But a new Kirilenko has recently reared his head.

This version has an ego.

Word out of Russia is that the Jazz forward wants out of Utah. Kirilenko has been spouting off to the Russian media all summer about his disdain for his role playing for the Jazz in Jerry Sloan’s system.

The timing is odd — and telling.

Last year, the Jazz had their best season since 1998, and for the first time since John Stockton retired and Karl Malone became a Laker, the Jazz actually mattered.

That’s saying a lot in the brutal Western Conference.

Strangely, these developments don’t come as good news to the Jazz’s max-money player. In fact, he’s disgruntled.

With Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur in the lineup, Kirilenko is no longer relied upon for offense.

But, all of a sudden, Kirilenko thinks he’s a jump shooter. The small forward wants more touches offensively but in Sloan’s system, there are no set plays for Kirilenko.

Here’s a tip, Kirilenko: When defenders don’t come within five feet of you when you’re holding the ball on the perimeter, you’re probably not considered a threat from that distance.

And it’s true. Kirilenko is not a reliable shooter from any distance farther out than a layup. But he has become an effective player despite his inability to hit a spot-up 15-footer because of his athleticism.

Kirilenko thinks that Sloan is stifling his style of play. But Sloan’s style allows Kirilenko to play his game because the Russian doesn’t need to have the ball in his hands to be effective.

Now that Kirilenko is a star — sort of — he thinks he deserves more shots. But he didn’t become a star by making shots. Simply because he makes more money than any other Jazzman doesn’t mean he should get to clang the ball off the iron 15 times a game.

Kirilenko’s style of play is unique. He brings energy to a game through rebounds, blocks and steals — not necessarily through draining shots.

Kirilenko’s recent outbursts reveal that he was content playing for a non-playoff team. He didn’t mind losing as long as he was a big fish in a little pond. But now that the pond around him has grown with the addition of Boozer, Williams and Okur, Kirilenko is feeling more like a guppy than ever.

Luckily for Kirilenko, he locked in his contract with the Jazz at the peak of his popularity. No team in its right mind would buy out the $63 million remaining in his contract.

While Kirilenko isn’t necessarily past his heyday, he hasn’t played well enough in recent seasons to garner much attention from other NBA teams in the market for a small forward — at least not for that price.

Sorry, Kirilenko, you’re stuck here. So stop whining, swat a couple of shot attempts and grab a few rebounds every game.

Be the Kirilenko we all know and love.

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